Gaming

Sightseeing in gaming

A colleague of mine and I were talking while sitting in the trenches this week about Half Life 2. He was making the remark that once he gets himself a better graphics card, he’ll be able to take in the sights better in Half Life episode 2. It got me thinking about how Half Life 2 certainly did have rather good sights to see. Coming out of the City 17 train station and seeing the Citadel for the first time was an incredibly good way of setting the mood of the game, and one of those general ‘wow’ moments in gaming.

It got me thinking a little deeper about the times in gaming when you just stop and stare at the sight presented. And it doesn’t have to be because of good graphics. I was discussing with him how Half Life 1 was the first game to set off my fear of heights. The cliff side missions of that game were harrowing.

A lot of open world games lend themselves to gaming sightseeing.

Morrowind I guess was another of the first games where I just took in the sights. From the calm and peaceful swamp scenes, to the dramatic Ministry of Truth in Vivec, Morrowind was just a great game for taking in the landscape. And that game had a relatively short draw distance. There were none of the sweeping hilltop vistas that came with Oblivion, the follow up game. The views were great, just the same, perhaps because I’d not seen them before in gaming. Weather too played a cool part in the sights of the game too, whether the rain or the red sandstorms of Morrowind.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is another open world game with great sights. Whether looking over Los Santos from up on Vinewoods high hills or just running around at street level, it too had a problem with drawing distance but generally it came across looking like city smog. Was this game cool for its sightseeing because the sights were genuinely cool or because they were sights that I’d seen in a stack of movies growing up. One of the charms of the GTA3 series has to be how well it recreated periods of time and places.

The game is one that is well known for sightseeing, and its open world setting encouraged things like base jumping from the very high up Mount Chiliad and half a dozen things that surely the creators didn’t think would be as popular. It rewarded exploration, though. I remember the first time I came across a cafe in the middle of nowhere, near the games equivalent of Area 51.

Pity that GTA4 didn’t really wow me when it came to its sights, given that the graphics were infinitely better.

No amount of images will ever really do justice to some game sightseeing experiences. Perhaps one of the truly greatest and last games of the PS2 and one of whom almost every moment of the game was a sightseeing moment was Shadow of the Colossus.

Here is a game that just looked beautiful. It had to. A lot of the game was spent on horseback going to the next boss battle sequence which were themselves incredible sightseeing. The world was a lonely and almost entirely empty one, and it looked stunning. From sun dappled forest scenes, to wide and sweeping seaside hilltops, this game had everything.

And games don’t necessarily have to be beautiful to have impressive vistas. A final game that leaps to mind would be Fallout 3. It might have had something to do with the fact it was one of the first games I played on my huge HD TV with an HD cable. Coming out of the vault for the first time was a scene that the creators obviously wanted to have impact.

With the mood music and the intense white light slowly fading into vision, what reveals itself is a wide and impressive view of a bomb blasted Washington, DC. It set the scene perfectly, leaving you staring at distant ruins that you’d end up visiting during the course of the game. In the case of the famous landmarks, one wasn’t disappointed for sights when they finally got to them.

So, countless examples of in game sightseeing. On thought today, I can go back to my friend with these many examples of games other than Half Life 2 that really piqued my like of scenery. But to the gamers out there reading, do you have any to add to this somewhat expansive (but surely short) list?

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2 thoughts on “Sightseeing in gaming

  1. So glad you listed Shadow of the Colossus here. Ico, of course, also had that great sight-seeing element to it that made you feel a very small part of a massive, ever-changing mechanism. And Metroid Prime pulled off the feel of vast exploration very well, even though the world was segmented by loading doors.

  2. I guess Shadow did so good a job of making you feel small because of its huge, sweeping landscape. I never did get to play Ico. And I don’t know where my PS2 is to replay cool games like Shadow too!

    I’ve heard almost nothing of Metroid Prime, other than the main character is a girl? After all these years with a helmet on.

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